By COLlive reporter
In 2007, Rabbi Levi Garelik was lying in the Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park with doctors and medical staff were buzzing around his hospital bed.
He was rushed there after suffering a sudden and sever stroke in middle of a meeting in Crown Heights. Though he was unable to communicate, the halachic authority and teacher was completely conscious throughout the chaos.
“In my mind, I committed to the Rebbe, that if, with Hashem’s help, I walk out of the hospital, I would double the dedication to the Rebbe’s work of spreading Torah and Chassidus,” he tells COLlive.com.
And thus, SichosOnline.org was created.
The website features a treasure of video lectures in English he regularly gives based on the Rebbe‘s teachings, covering the weekly Torah portion, Jewish holidays and Rambam’s Mishne Torah.
“Through the miracles of Hashem, I not only survived but walked out of the hospital healthy and ready to fulfill my promise,” he says. “This project, which began as SichosOnline.org, presents the “authentic Rebbe”—the sichos, maamarim and igros kodesh in their original format and depth.”
“The goal is that everyone –from the Bnei Brak maggid shiur to the YU professor, from an older Chossid to young businessman to a young 12 year old boy or girl– should have the Likutei Sichos available to them, in their original form,” he says.
Before presenting such a video class, he prepares a curriculum that includes the sources of the Rebbe’s teaching and its main take-away points.
“Many Shluchim tell me they use it as a base to their own shiur, I hear some women play it on Thursday nights while cooking for Shabbos and husbands use it to present a Dvar Torah at the Shabbos table,” he says.
Does he plan on covering the entire Likutei Sichos?
“In Likutei Sichos there are between 20 and 30 sichos per parsha, so this is a minimum of a 20-year project. However, Moshiach will be here before so it’s up to him how long it will take…”
VIDEO: A class why does the Rambam depict a different Menorah than everybody else? (Source sheet)
Also covered in the classes are Chabad customs. For example: the daily study cycle in Rambam which was just concluded last week, Rabbi Garelik provides several classes on the Rambam, including why Mishne Torah was chosen to be learned as opposed to the Shulchan Aruch.
Another revolutionary component of SichosOnline.org website is the rabbinical and halachic correspondence and availability through which Rabbi Garelik interacts with members of his “virtual community” to answer and clarify questions and concerns.
“The basic idea is that a rabbi cannot be available 24/7,” explains Rabbi Garelik. “Questions can come up when I am in class, at a meeting or on a flight,” he explains. “However, with modern technology everything (almost) can be arranged.”
In recent months he’s been uploading ‘frequently asked questions’ he has received in the last 28 years and his halachic response to them, mostly based on Chabad customs.
“They can be available for everybody, anytime,” he says. “There are already over 2000 items and if the specific topic in question is not there, a member of the website can submit a question and receive an answer in reasonable time.
Topics covered are systematically arranged: Daily cycle (from waking up to the nightly Shma Yisroel), Jewish holidays, lifecycle events (from birth through marriage, family purity and wedding anniversaries to burial and mourning), and even Jewish history.
Born and raised in Milan, Italy, where his parents serve as the Rebbe’s Head Shluchim since 1958, Rabbi Garelik received Yore and Yodin ordination from Rabbi Yisrael Yitzchak Piekarski, the late Rosh Yeshiva of the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway.
Over the years, he accumulated immense experience as he received shimush (rabbinic apprenticeship) from the members of the Crown Heights Beis Din – Rabbi Yehuda Marlow OBM, Rabbi Avraham Osdoba and Rabbi Yosef Heller.
In addition to serving as rabbinic coordinator for OK kosher certification, Rabbi Garelik authored halachic works such as the acclaimed Kitzur Dinei Taharah, a digest of the laws of family sanctity and mikvah, and the “Madrich” (two volumes covering lifecycles and laws of mourning).
A subscription is required for this response service, mostly used to sponsor the Sichos project which is free and available to all. Another free service is the periodical “Yomtov reminders” which are being published for 10 years now.
“Subscribes receive an unparalleled service of answers to thousands of daily FAQ’s in Halacha, and meanwhile they sponsor a share in disseminating the Rebbe’s Torah with the world,” he says. “The goal is that this should help that this should become a self-sustaining project.”
To learn more (literally), visit SichosOnline.org